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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

My Thoughts on OROP and its Saunction

OROP, Pension the Future and Necessity
I have been following the various vicissitudes and ups and downs of the progress of the OROP.
Having said this the fact is that  this demand is there for years and perhaps is more applicable to OR and group D and C employees. Their pensions are pretty low and certainly need to be enhanced. Having stated my opinion (which is not sacrosanct), I will state that as yet OROP is not on the anvil this year.  Firstly the finance Minister has not budgeted it. It means he has no plan to make a payment this year unless he presents a supplementary budget and asks for Rs 9000 crores. I don’t think this will happen. In fact the government under Modi has cleverly by a sleight of hand appeased the ex- servicemen by some bland assurances by the Raksha Mantri.

OROP has been a long standing demand and in any other country (even a country like Burma which follows a pacifist religion); it would have been sanctioned long back. But in India where the political leadership is distrustful of the army it has not happened. The roots of this distrust go back to the dawn of independence, when Pandit Nehru with no appreciation of power politics and the role of military power allowed the army to go to seed.  Yes, one can blame Nehru, but the General Staff and arm chair generals led by Cariappa have equally to share the blame. The thinking can be summed by a statement made by Dr. Rajendra  Prasad, the then President of India in 1955, where   he called for the disbandment of the army and its replacement on the border by a police force.

With the army neglected, it was inevitable that India would lose its status as a world power and in 1962 a defeat in a war with China made China the leader in Asia. This defeat rang the alarm bells in the political leadership and they had to look after the army. It was a forced decision and though the army was upgraded, the old distrust continued and resulted in further devaluation of the status of the army Vis a Vis their civilian counterparts.  With promotion avenues limited, an unhealthy rat race to please the powers that be started in the officer cadre. This is a fact as the men who rose up, were men of straw and no army chief (he heads the most organized force in the country) had the courage to confront the government.

 The down slide continued and there are umpteen cases like the rank pay imbroglio (Not worth recounting here) and other cases where the army was given short shrift. The general staff simply showed acquiescence, content to keep their stars on their shoulders.  The blame for all these anomalies is squarely with the General Staff.

The situation has not changed and we have had the sorry spectacle of a 4 star general going to the Supreme Court for his date of birth (so he could get an extension as Chief). Unfortunately the same man never thought to petition the apex court on perks and OROP. This about sums up the approach of the general staff.

The government, be it BJP or Congress has treated the forces cursively. They are quick to mouth sermons on nationalism and duty, but have sorely neglected the fighting man. This belief has now percolated down the ranks and the next war will bring it out

Thus though the IESM is doing a great job, they are unable to pressurize the government. If they had any clout they would have got OPROP sanctioned during the rule of the UPA (they were in power for 10years).  Thus the army and more important the ex-servicemen are fighting a battle with one arm tied behind the back. The BJP is in power for 11 months and apart from some leaks of news, nothing tangible has happened. To top it there is no budgetary proviso for OROP in the 2015-16 budgets.

In Para one I had stated that OPROP for the men is a necessity, though the officer cadre is better off. I recollect a soldier was equated to a peon in one of the Pay Commissions. This is the clout the general staff has. These are just some random thoughts and anybody is free to disagree with me.